I often drive along Hursley Road on a Friday evening and it seems that almost every week the Give Blood vehicles are parked outside St Boniface church – a blood donor session is underway.
Today (14 June) is World Blood Donor Day, so I thought I would write a little a bit what happens when you give blood – and highlight some of the improvements that have been made over the thirty-plus years that I’ve been a blood donor.
The first improvement is that there is now no need to turn up and wait; you can make an appointment in advance (though you can turn up and wait if you wish). In fact, you can usually make an appointment for your next visit while you are there – usually at the tea table.
The staff will aim to compete your donation within an hour of your booked appointment time. But unexpected delays do happen, so take a book to read while you are waiting (the selection of reading material in the waiting area has not improved over the last thirty years!). Personally, I don’t mind being delayed – it’s not often that I get a chance to be “away from it all” with good book.
There is a short questionnaire to check your lifestyle and health and to address any potential risk issues. The form is usually sent to your home address a week or so in advance of your appointment. Before too long you are called to a private booth where a nurse will check your answers, clarify any points, and determine whether you are fit to give blood that day.
A finger or thumb is pierced with a small needle (it doesn’t hurt) and a tiny amount of blood is taken and dropped into a test tube of coloured liquid. I’ve never found out what this is checking, but my blood has always passed the test.
A few minutes wait for a bed to come available, and you are taken to give blood. It’s not a bed any more – more a large reclining chair. Rather comfortable as you lean back and contemplate the ceiling.
You will be given a choice of which arm you would like blood take from – I don’t have a preference, I take whichever side the chair is made up for. A blood pressure cuff is put round your arm, and your forearm is cleaned with a swab.
Now the bit that people seem to dread the most – the big needle is stuck into your arm, on the inside of your elbow. Now, here is the really important bit: IT DOESN’T HURT. They used to give a local anaesthetic, but stopped that several years ago, as it isn’t necessary.
And now you just sit, relax, and wait for your donation to complete – gently moving your hand to help the blood flow. 470 millilitres of blood is collected – just under a pint (but still nearly an armful).
And that’s it. There’s no longer a ten-minute rest period; you are free to stand up (slowly) and go and get your tea and biscuits. And these are far better than they used to be too – a wide selection of biscuits, crisps, sweets, etc. In fact, the only time I ever have a Club biscuit is when I go to give blood!
Regular blood donor sessions are held at St Boniface Church, Pavilion on the park, The Hub and various other places around Eastleigh and Chandlers Ford. Details can be found on the Blood Donation website.